Depression is now the leading cause of ill health and disability in the world, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), following a huge spike in the number of people who report living with the condition.
The condition has overtaken lower respiratory disease as the biggest global health problem, with latest figures showing more than 300 million people worldwide have a diagnosis of depression, an increase of more than 18 per cent between 2006 and 2015.
The organisation said it hopes the figures will lead to improved availability of effective treatment for the condition which carries a huge human cost as well as costing the world economy billions.
WHO Director-General, Dr Margaret Chan, said: “These new figures are a wake-up call for all countries to re-think their approaches to mental health and to treat it with the urgency that it deserves.”
Quotes on depression
Quotes on depression
1/14 Alistair Campbell
Alistair Campbell: "One day, we will look back and wonder how on earth we used to believe that depression was a lifestyle choice, only to be debated and taken seriously when an A List film star took his life, and the world filled with people saying how shocked and saddened they were. "
2/14 On living with depression
Stephen Fry: "Depression is as real as the weather…it’s all about a kind of mental umbrella. 'Hey-ho, it’s raining inside: it isn’t my fault and there’s nothing I can do about it, but sit it out. But the sun may well come out tomorrow and when it does, I shall take full advantage.'"
3/14 On living with depression
Ernest Hemingway: "The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places." (He also said "happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know")
4/14 On living with depression
Jonathan Davis: "A lot of people don't realize that depression is an illness. I don't wish it on anyone, but if they would know how it feels, I swear they would think twice before they just shrug it."
5/14 On passing judgement on depression
Geoffrey Boycott: "Until you've had depression I don't think you're qualified to talk about it."
6/14 Jack Dee
Jack Dee: "I have had issues with depression all my life, and it's probably true to say there was a tendency towards it even when I was very young, during my schooldays. There was often - and this is quite common with comics - a sense of not feeling as if I belonged anywhere."
7/14 On living with depression
Jason Manford: "The world needs you even if you don't think it does. I promise, we need you here, now."
8/14 Author Jeanette Winterson
Art saved me; it got me through my depression and self-loathing, back to a place of innocence.
9/14 On life and depression
Agatha Christie: "I like living. I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow, but through it all I still know that just to be alive is a grand thing."
10/14 On living with depression
Albert Camus: "In the midst of winter, I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer."
11/14 On dealing with low mood
Dolly Parton "The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain."
12/14 If you're feeling depressed right now..
Annabel Giles: "If you’re depressed right now, then let's remember that we only have to do today, that's all. Nothing more. We can do just a day, can't we? And don’t forget, we haven't always been like this. The good days will come back. We've just go to do as much as we can, when we can."
13/14 Helen Keller on looking for the positive
Helen Keller: “When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.”
14/14 On it happening to all of us
Mariella Frostrup: "Only those with skin as thick as elephant hide can hope to sail through their teens unscathed by self-doubt and bouts of depression."
Dr Skekhar Saxena of the WHO said lack of understanding of the condition and prejudice towards those who suffer from it remain barriers to effective treatment.
“For someone living with depression, talking to a person they trust is often the first step towards treatment and recovery,” he said ahead of the launch of the WHO’s “let’s talk” campaign.
According to researchers, even in high income countries, nearly 50 per cent of people with depression do not receive treatment and drugs prescribed are often ineffective. On average, just three per cent of government health budgets is invested in mental health, varying from less than one per cent in low-income countries to around five per cent in high-income countries including the UK.
The WHO said investing in mental health makes economic sense and claims that for every US dollar invested in better treatment for depression and anxiety, there is a return of 4 dollars in better health and ability to work.
According to a separate WHO-led study, which calculated projected treatment costs and health outcomes in 36 low, middle and high-income countries for the 15 years from 2016-2030, low levels of recognition and access to care for depression and anxiety result in a global economic loss of a trillion US dollars every year.
Prime Minister Theresa May has pledged to create parity of esteem between mental and physical health in the UK, but critics have suggested the motivation is purely economic, with an aim of “fixing” people and finding them fit for work as quickly as possible.
But some mental health professionals and campaigners say the human cost of the condition is immeasurable and the focus should not be exclusively on the estimated cost to the economy and on getting people “back to work” because this is not always helpful and can lead to further problems.
The UK’s leading bodies representing psychologists, psychotherapists, psychoanalysts and counsellors recently wrote an open letter, published in The Independent, urging the Government to suspend benefit sanctions which are often imposed on people with mental health problems.
The letter suggested that far from being an automatic “cure” for depression, unhappiness at work can be a major cause of the condition, and that “bad jobs can be more damaging to mental health than unemployment.”
It said: “Suspending the sanctions system alone is not enough. We believe the Government also has to change its focus from making unemployment less attractive, to making employment more attractive – which means a wholesale review of the back to work system.
“We want to see a range of policy changes to promote mental health and wellbeing. These include increased mental health awareness training for job centre staff – and reform of the work capability assessment (WCA), which may be psychologically damaging, and lacks clear evidence of reliability or effectiveness.
“We urge the Government to rethink the Jobcentre’s role from not only increasing employment, but also ensuring the quality of that employment, given that bad jobs can be more damaging to mental health than unemployment.”
WHO identifies clear links between depression and other mental and physical health problems.
“Depression increases the risk of substance use disorders and diseases such as diabetes and heart disease; the opposite is also true, meaning that people with these other conditions have a higher risk of depression.”
According to mental health charities in the UK, mixed anxiety and depression is the most commonly diagnosed mental health problem in the country, with 7.8 per cent of the population meeting the criteria for the condition, which is believed to account for one fifth of all days taken of work.
There is a clear link between depression and suicide, which is the leading cause of death in men under 35. The number of unexpected patient deaths reported by mental health trusts in England has risen by 50 per cent in the last three years, according to figures obtained by the BBC under the freedom of information act.
The rise in “virtual” treatments, such as Apps approved by the NHS for depression and anxiety – has proved controversial, with critics claiming that while they may help some people, they are no substitute for proper talking therapies with mental health professionals for those who need it.
Demand for mental health services has reached an unprecedented level, while funding for mental health services fell by 8 per cent between 2010 and 2015, according to statistics from 43 trusts.
Theresa May delivered a much-publicised speech in January pledging to end the stigma around mental health, but did not promise significant extra funding to deal with the surge in demand for treatment.
The focus of her speech was on mental health problems among young people rather than adults, pledging that every secondary school will be offered mental health first aid training, while the Care Quality Commission is conducting a review into child and adolescent mental health services across the country.Reuse content